An Instance with E-books

I saw my brother conversing with a friend on Facebook about a book by Twyla Tharp called The Creative Habit. I’m a creative and I love learning how to be better at it, so I searched for the book on Amazon. It was easy to find and looks like a great book. And then it was time to answer the all-important question: how much does it cost?

new paperback copy costs $9.09. (It’s the same price at Barnes & Noble, in case you want to support your local bookstore.) Once I add in the typical $3.99 for shipping, the total cost for the book will be $13.08. Not bad. And actually, hang on, that’s the new price that eligible for Free Super Saver Shipping. I can find it for $5.04 from a third-party seller. That brings my total cost to $9.03. And if I get a used paperback, the price drops to $4.22, or $8.21 total. With my budget, that’s affordable.

I then saw in the left corner, “Start reading The Creative Habit on your Kindle in under a minute.” Instead of waiting 5–10 business days to receive the book via mail, I can buy the digital version and start reading instantly. Never mind that I’m already in the middle of a book right now and have the next two planned; I want the book now! I clicked on the link and expected to find the price cheaper, since it’s a digital copy.

It was $12.99.

Wait—it’s more expensive? 

If lower cost for isn’t the advantage of e-books, what is? Maybe getting it instantly—but I don’t need it instantly. Maybe it’s the weight, so I don’t have to carry around a bunch of heavy books—but the book is only 256 pages. It’s probably a typical paperback thickness and weighs under a pound, or more precisely under 16 oz, which compared to a Kindle’s 8.5 oz. isn’t that much more. And since multi-tasking actually makes you less efficient, I try to read one book at a time, which means I don’t really need to lighten the load in my backpack. And although my bookshelves at home are overflowing, I kind of like it; it makes me feel like I’m learning and accomplishing something, because in reality I am.

With a print copy, I can underline and highlight, jot my notes in the margins about thoughts I have and process what I’m learning and how I can implement it in my creative workflow. It will always be on my bookshelf, ready for a quick glance through its well-worn pages. And someday I might have a creative block and not know what to do, and then my eye happens to glance at the book on the shelf and I read it and it solves my problem and I create a world-changing piece of art. And, if I decide to, I can sell it and buy a new awesome book on creativity.

So… what are the advantages of an e-book again?

They’re lighter. They are, in some cases apparently, cheaper. They help on-the-go adults read more. They allow for better publishing opportunities for new authors. They’re better for the environment than cutting down trees for paper. They don’t take up space in my room.

E-books are without a doubt a good tool. But I maintain my view that they shouldn’t completely replace printed books.

Now before you bring up the analogy of CDs moving to MP3s and DVDs and TV moving to streaming, I don’t think that’s a good comparison. The big difference between music and media and books is our interaction with the product. With a CD, it’s about what’s on the CD, not the CD itself. With movies and TV programming, it’s about the show, not the DVD itself or the television. I buy a DVD or CD and put it in the drive and stop interacting with the physical product. The content consumption was never about the method of delivery but about what was on the CD or DVD.

With a book on the other hand, while it’s still obviously about the words on the page and not the page itself, when I’m reading I never stop interacting with the product. MP3s and streaming aren’t a good analogy for the move from print to digital books, because be it a Kindle or bound paper, the interaction with the device is an inseparable part of the reading experience. 

Maybe it boils down to this: I enjoy my interaction with a printed book. I will certainly use e-readers, because there are situations when a digital copy works better than a physical copy, like an extended vacation when I know I’ll read more than one book. But personally, I like printed books too much to completely switch to digital.

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3 thoughts on “An Instance with E-books

  1. jeremykoepke

    One beneficial aspect I’ve recently utilized w/ e-books – the notes/highlighting tools. Since much of my reading is for courses I’ll be teaching or getting quotes/references this feature hooked me quickly: at the end of my reading the e-book I can go to my notes profile for the book and quickly copy/paste all my notes (with instant page & copyright info automatically included) into a document for filing and easy reference later. No more flipping back through the book to log all my highlights and notes, typing it all out! (But I’m still partial to hard copy :)

  2. Jesse Koepke

    Wow, you can copy out the notes? Is that in the Kindle iPhone app? Yeah, the highlights function (at least in the Kindle app) is really good, and the ability to search for them, or even search the text at all, is a big plus, no doubt.

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